Medieval manuscripts blog

4 posts from February 2010

23 February 2010

Greek New Testament Manuscripts

A page from a 10th-century manuscript of the Four Gospels in Ancient Greek, showing the beginning of the Gospel of St Matthew.

The beginning of the Gospel of St Matthew, Add MS 11300 [Gregory-Aland 478], f.8r

As somebody with a Biblical Studies background, I am particularly looking forward to seeing a number of Greek New Testament manuscripts fully available on the web this summer. The first phase of the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, will include no less than one majuscule from the 7th century, 33 minuscules from the 10th-14th centuries, and 16 lectionaries from the 11th-14th centuries.

I am planning to post on a selection of these over the following weeks.


Juan Garcés

17 February 2010

Beyond boutique digitisation: scaling manuscripts digitisation projects

In January 2009, the Mass-Digitization List featured an interesting discussion triggered by the question whether there are any mass-digitisation projects on medieval (or earlier) manuscripts underway in the United Kingdom. The initial posting referred to the impressive digitisation activity at the Bavarian State Library in Munich and Markus Brantl's distinction between 'boutique digitisation' and 'mass-digitisation' , the difference being, among other things, scale and the degree of manual input/automation. List members were quick in pointing out projects that are focusing on scale, such as the Parker on the Web Project and the International Dunhuang Project. One participant, Thorsten Schassan, questioned whether the aforementioned distinction is applicable to digitisation of manuscripts, given the difference in approaches — both in digitisation and use — to medieval (and earlier) manuscripts. I concur with this latter point.

Conversations about manuscripts digitisation seem to me often determined by the perspective from which such projects are viewed. These perspectives are often influenced by two extreme poles: on the one side is the desire for complete coverage of material and liberal user rights of digital outcomes, on the other is the concern about preservation of collection items and sustainable business models. These two extremes are, of course, not incompatible.

Perhaps one way of reframing the 'boutique' vs. 'mass' digitisation discussion is to speak of scalability, instead of scale. In terms of scale, printed books and manuscripts are incomparable, but the digitisation of both groups of material is scalable. In other words, manuscripts can be digitised following strategies and workflows that allow the coverage of entire collections and the creation of services that allow users to work on large collections and even across digitised collections. Focusing on scalability instead of scale also makes sense of the current funding climate, where larger collections have to be sub-divided into smaller fundable projects that fit into a general big-scale strategy. The Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, for example, is by Brantl's distinction a 'boutique' approach (all manuscript digitisation projects, I fear, would be). In developing and refining our workflows and systems, however, we are constantly looking for scalability, i.e. we are working on approaches that could be applied to the British Library's entire Western Manuscripts collection and are seeking to make the manuscripts available in ways that fit into the emerging digital research environment.

Juan Garcés

08 February 2010

The British Library's Greek Manuscript Digitisation Project

The British Library has one of the best manuscript collections in the world. Its Western Manuscripts collection alone comprises over 25,000 volumes and over 50,000 papyri, charters and rolls dating from before 1600. Included in this group are 1,000 Greek codices and 3,000 Greek papyri. The British Library's vision is to make available in digital format as many of our unique and primary resource collections as possible, for the benefit of research and knowledge creation, and to ensure our heritage is preserved for future generations.

The Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, generously funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, is a pilot project that will fully digitise and make available 250 Greek manuscripts by summer 2010. In achieving this goal, we are seeking to develop strategies and workflows, as well as acquire the experience in pursuing a mass-digitisation approach that can be applied to our pre-1600 manuscripts collection.

As Project Manager, I feel privileged to be involved in this project and I am looking forward to sharing the views and experiences of those who are involved in similar initiatives. I trust that this blog will achieve that goal.

Juan Garcés

Το πρόγραμμα ψηφιοποίησης των Ελληνικών Χειρογράφων της Βρετανικής Βιβλιοθήκης

Η Βρετανική Βιβλιοθήκη διαθέτει μια από τις καλύτερες συλλογές χειρογράφων στον κόσμο. Μόνο η συλλογή Δυτικών Χειρογράφων της περιλαμβάνει πάνω από 25000 τόμους, ενώ ξεπερνούν τις 50000 οι πάπυροι, οι ιδρυτικές διακηρύξεις (charters) και τα ειλητάρια (rolls) που χρονολογούνται πριν το 1600. Σε αυτή την ομάδα ανήκουν και 1000 Ελληνικοί χειρόγραφοι κώδικες, καθώς και 3000 Ελληνικοί πάπυροι. Το όραμα της Βρετανικής Βιβλιοθήκης είναι να διαθέσει σε ψηφιακή μορφή όσο το δυνατόν περισσότερες από τις μοναδικές και πρωτογενείς συλλογές της, προς όφελος της έρευνας και γνώσης, με σκοπό να διασφαλίσει τη διάσωση αυτής της κληρονομιάς για τις επερχόμενες γενιές.

Το Πρόγραμμα Ψηφιοποίησης Ελληνικών Χειρογράφων, που χρηματοδοτείται από το Ίδρυμα Σταύρος Νιάρχος, είναι ένα πιλοτικό πρόγραμμα που σκοπό έχει να ψηφιοποιήσει πλήρως και να καταστήσει προσβάσιμα ψηφιακά 250 Ελληνικά χειρόγραφα μέχρι το καλοκαίρι του 2010. Προκειμένου να επιτύχουμε τον σκοπό μας, αναζητούμε να αναπτύξουμε στρατηγικές και ροές εργασίας, καθώς και να αποκτήσουμε την εμπειρία στο να εφαρμόσουμε μια προσέγγιση μαζικής ψηφιοποίησης, η οποία μελλοντικά θα μπορούσε να επεκταθεί και στη συλλογή χειρογράφων μας που χρονολογούνται πριν το 1600. 

Ως Διευθυντής του Προγράμματος νιώθω ευνοημένος που συμμετέχω σε ένα τέτοιο πρόγραμμα. Αναμένω με χαρά λοιπόν να μοιραστούμε απόψεις και εμπειρίες με ανθρώπους που συμμετέχουν σε παρόμοιες πρωτοβουλίες. Ευελπιστώ ότι αυτό το blog  θα συμβάλει προς αυτή την κατεύθυνση.

Juan Garcés
Translated by Dimitrios Skrekas

05 February 2010

Welcome to the Digitised Manuscripts Blog

I created this blog in order to make it possible for all those interested to stay in touch with exciting manuscripts digitisation projects at The British Library, such as the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, and to share our thoughts on all things related to digitised manuscripts. I hope to blog not only on the progress of our projects but also on more general topics associated with generating digital images of manuscripts, making them available to researchers, and pursuing old and new means of researching digital surrogates of ancient manuscripts.

I will also be joined from time to time by some of my colleagues – conservators, curators, imaging technicians, systems developers, researchers and others – who will guestblog on their experience with digitised manuscripts.

I hope you find the blog interesting and take advantage of the comments feature to let me know what you think.

Juan Garcés
Project Manager,
Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Projects